Virginia Casino Effort Ramps Up With ‘Caesars for Danville’ Campaign

Posted on August 17, 2020 - Last Updated on March 2, 2021

Caesars Entertainment recently announced “Caesars For Danville,” a formal referendum campaign and committee to bring casino gambling to the Virginia city.

Four co-chairs will serve as liaisons between Caesars Entertainment and Danville residents, according to the Aug. 12 announcement. They will also advise the campaign committee and help promote its efforts to pass the Caesars Virginia referendum in November.

The co-chairs include:

  • Danny Marshall (R-Danville), Virginia House of Delegates
  • Alonzo Jones, Danville mayor
  • Tiffany Franks, Averett University president
  • Tammy Wright-Warren, a minority investor in the project

Danville is in south-central Virginia on the North Carolina border.

City officials chose Caesars as its preferred casino operator in May. A month earlier, the Virginia General Assembly voted to legalize casino gambling and sports betting. The Virginia Lottery will regulate all betting activity in the commonwealth.

If November’s referendum in Danville is successful, Caesars expects to break ground in late 2021 or early 2022. Then, the casino would open in 2023.

Conflict of interest for Danville politicians?

Caesars Virginia would be the latest in a growing number of public-private partnerships in the gaming space. However, does the inclusion of two elected officials on the Caesars committee present a conflict of interest?

Jones, Danville’s mayor since 2018, addressed those concerns following the committee announcement. Jones consulted Danville City Attorney Clarke Whitfield on the ethics of his participation. As a result, Whitfield reportedly told Jones it was “perfectly proper.”

The Danville casino would be located at the Dan River Mills industrial complex. The 85-acre site currently features many vacant and crumbling buildings.

Jones said in the announcement:

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community and breathes life back into an old industrial site. I hope my fellow residents will join me in voting yes to bring Caesars to Danville.”

Danville is one of five economically struggling localities permitted to build a casino if a referendum passes.

BristolNorfolk and Portsmouth have all chosen casino partners. Additionally, they’re all slated to vote on referendums in November. Meanwhile, Richmond residents will vote in 2021.

Potential impact of Caesars Virginia

The proposed $400 million Caesars Virginia project would feature more than 300 hotel rooms and a 35,000-square-foot conference center. It would also include a 2,500-seat, state-of-the-art arena. Additionally, the plans include a spa, pool, fitness center, restaurants, bars and other entertainment options.

The Danville casino would include slot machines, table games and poker tables. A sportsbook is also planned.

Danville, in Pittsylvania County, has an estimated population of 40,000. The “City of Churches” was once a thriving hub for tobacco, textiles and transportation. However, during recent lean decades, Danville has worked to develop new bases for its struggling economy.

In addition to 900 temporary construction jobs, officials said the Caesars Virginia project would create 1,300 full-time operational jobs. Those positions would include benefits and annual salaries between $35,000 and $47,000.

Just as importantly, Caesars officials said the project would bring in $34 million annually via gaming tax revenue. Collectively, Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission reported that the commonwealth’s five casinos could generate nearly $1 billion in net gaming revenue.

“Creating a world-class resort in Danville is the next step in our economic revitalization,” stated co-chair Marshall, an 18-year Virginia delegate. “This project will be transformative for our region and deserves our support.”

Danville residents can officially cast their votes on Nov. 3. Early voting commences on Sept. 18.

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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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